Edie Littlefield Sundby lives in San Diego, CA, supposedly one of the states with the “good” Obamacare exchanges. As of Dec 31, she has been told that her health plan will end. After searching on Covered California, the cancer survivor still hasn’t found a plan that allows her to obtain the kind of care that she had before Obamacare — care that has literally kept her alive for the past six years.
Two things have been essential in my fight to survive stage-4 cancer. The first are doctors and health teams in California and Texas: at the medical center of the University of California, San Diego, and its Moores Cancer Center; Stanford University’s Cancer Institute; and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
The second element essential to my fight is a United Healthcare PPO (preferred provider organization) health-insurance policy.
Since March 2007 United Healthcare has paid $1.2 million to help keep me alive, and it has never once questioned any treatment or procedure recommended by my medical team. The company pays a fair price to the doctors and hospitals, on time, and is responsive to the emergency treatment requirements of late-stage cancer. Its caring people in the claims office have been readily available to talk to me and my providers.
But in January, United Healthcare sent me a letter announcing that they were pulling out of the individual California market. The company suggested I look to Covered California starting in October.
You would think it would be simple to find a health-exchange plan that allows me, living in San Diego, to continue to see my primary oncologist at Stanford University and my primary care doctors at the University of California, San Diego. Not so. UCSD has agreed to accept only one Covered California plan—a very restrictive Anthem EPO Plan. EPO stands for exclusive provider organization, which means the plan has a small network of doctors and facilities and no out-of-network coverage (as in a preferred-provider organization plan) except for emergencies. Stanford accepts an Anthem PPO plan but it is not available for purchase in San Diego (only Anthem HMO and EPO plans are available in San Diego).
So if I go with a health-exchange plan, I must choose between Stanford and UCSD. Stanford has kept me alive—but UCSD has provided emergency and local treatment support during wretched periods of this disease, and it is where my primary-care doctors are.
Before the Affordable Care Act, health-insurance policies could not be sold across state lines; now policies sold on the Affordable Care Act exchanges may not be offered across county lines.
Sundby liked her healthcare plan and her doctors. Because they kept her alive.